Written by Stephanie La, 2016.

This piece was written for a friend's (Bec Muldoon) university project. It features in her digital publication and print publication, both named Two.

My earliest memory of love was birthday shaped. Or at least, I’m assuming it was – my memory barely dates back to yesterday’s dinner. How could you go wrong with cake, presents and hugs? It’s an entire twenty-four hours dedicated to you and the day you decided that being cramped up inside your mother’s body was not enough and you wanted more. You wanted to see the world, but you cried as soon as you entered it. Inconsiderate.

The onset of this foreign thing called love has slammed its doors in my face before. Everyone talks about the pain that it causes, but they forget about the ache that exists in its absence. My heart lives under layers of (icing) dust and holds less footprints than the moon and there is definitely no American flag proudly implanted on its land. Instead of pouring the contents of my heart into another poor unassuming human being, I let it leak into the cracks of the earth; almost quite literally. I fell in love with Mother Nature and everything up in the atmosphere. Melbourne’s four seasons in a day gave me more variety on a daily basis than somebody ever could. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

The possibility of being swallowed up by love (and running off together into the sunset miraculously without falling over) was dangled precariously right in front of me. But it disappears as quickly as it appears. Funnily enough, it’s actually quite reminiscent of what happens when pizza is placed in front of me as well. Seriously speaking though, I wish someone had told me it wasn’t real just so I would have somebody else to blame for the ache in my chest. It turns out that Cupid knew me better than I thought and saved its arrows for a heart that was ready.

As a clumsy, reckless and somewhat desperate adolescent, my heart fell into places that it didn’t belong. Looking back, things like ‘I love you’ and ‘When I see you smile, I see a ray of light’ written in 12-point font on MSN Messenger didn’t feel right falling from their fingertips. Clearly they had a bright future ahead of them writing Hallmark greeting cards… I missed out. I held onto words instead of hands, perhaps you would be correct to assume that my fourteen-year-old self believed in cooties.

Now, it all feels like an obstacle course, where love is the ultimate sought-after prize. Score ten points if he’s interested enough to text back within the hour. Move five steps back if you overshare. It’s trial and error and all you’ve got to lose is your dignity, virginity, hostility, whatever applies. Give away a piece of yourself and be rewarded with a box of fresh strawberries delivered to your doorstep with a note attached. Wade through the anxiety when he doesn’t contact you for five days. It’ll feel like you’re sinking through quicksand but it’s worth it when he eventually does. Watch him disappear for ten days. Wonder why he hasn’t become a magician yet. Move to the next level when he reaches over and holds your hand. Bite your tongue and hold your breath when you hear something you don’t want to know.

You’ve reached a checkpoint when you fit together like two puzzle pieces and the rest of the jigsaw becomes irrelevant. Test your imagination and think of all the possibilities that don’t work in your favour, see how heavy you can make your heart feel. Realise that you are exceptional at this. Try and hide your blushing cheeks when he tells you that you’re the most interesting person he’s ever met. Question your self-worth when he stops talking to you. Throw yourself dramatically into the abyss (your bed) when you find out there’s somebody else. Stand back on your own two feet when you come to your senses and realise he was an asshole. Score yourself ten points by refraining yourself from telling him.

And this right here, in the last paragraph, is the most valuable piece of information you’ll get from this piece of writing. The most reliable form of love comes from within yourself, nobody else. Well, except for two other very important people – Ben... and Jerry. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, well then you’re screwed, aren’t ya?